Xander & Anya LIFE


Be All You Can Be
Don Bentley

The air rippled hot and dry in the distance. A lonely road cut a black scar over the red desert sands. Mesas stood silent sentry over the timeless tracts of the American Southwest.

Pausing from its feeding, the bird raised its head to warily scan the surrounding desert, searching for the source of its disquiet. Seeing nothing it turned its attention back to its food.

Chortling quietly to himself, the coyote set aside his binoculars and pulled his goggles firmly down over his eyes. Slowly he rose from his cover, careful to avoid sudden movement, and, cinching his harness tight, lit the fuse on his Acme(R) rocket. After a brief sputter the rocket roared to life and carried the roller skate mounted coyote towards his nemesis.

At the last moment the bird abandoned the convenient plate of birdseed, deftly sidestepping the passing rocket propelled coyote. With a cheery "meep-meep" the bird took off down the road.

Taken aback by his failure the coyote watched the bird disappear into the distance until the sudden and alarming absence of terra firma beneath his feet brought his attention crashing, along with the rest of him, to the canyon floor far below.


Xander Harris, a life long fan of almost everything animated (the creators of Smurfs and Carebears had much to answer for in his humble opinion) could still be brought to laughter by the epic struggle between the Roadrunner and the Coyote. As had been his practice since his pj's had had feet and a back door, Xander was eating his Saturday breakfast sitting at the coffee table watching cartoons. Unlike carefree youth, not every Saturday morning could be spent in front of the TV, but for once he was not working overtime and could while away a morning before heading down town for lunch.

A knock on his door turned Xander's attention away from his day's plans.

"Coming," called Xander as he turned off the TV and carried his cereal bowl to the kitchen.

He opened the door to find a tall solidly built man wearing an Army uniform. In a single glance Xander inventoried the minutia of his uniform: black beret with Ranger flash and a gold oak leaf, Infantry collar dogs, jump wings with combat star, Canadian jump wings, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman's Badge, and pressed trousers tucked into highly polished jump boots. The man was in his mid to late thirties, had the weatherworn features of a man used to spending his time in the out of doors, and a stereotypical close-cropped haircut.

"Morning, Major," Xander glanced at the name tag, "Neame."

"Robert Neame, Mister Harris. May I speak with you for a moment?" He spoke with a Midwestern accent.

"Sure," Xander stood aside and motioned the officer inside. "Can I offer you anything, Major? Coffee? Froot Loops?"

"Thank you, but no," Major Neame removed his beret and entered. "Nice place you have here."

"Thanks, but I don't deserve any credit for the decorating."


"No. My girlfriend is in charge of that department," Xander pointed to a framed photograph of Anya and him. "I'm lucky to still have my Babylon 5 commemorative plates. In a box. In the closet."

Neame nodded knowingly. "All I have is a small 'I love me' wall, and a large pile of boxes in the basement. One battle married men aren't supposed to win, I guess."


It was dark by the time Xander got home. Overtime was great, in theory. It certainly looked good on his pay statement, but indoor carpentry meant indoor lighting, and indoor lighting meant many a late night's work. Too many.

"Hi, honey. I'm home."

He barely had time to put his lunch box on the counter when Anya, giggling like a schoolgirl, crashed into him and pinned him against the fridge hugging him tight.

"Miss me?"

"You've been gone since morning, of course I've missed you," she hugged him for a moment longer then broke away.

"Hey, that was a short hug, and where's my sugar?"

"Happy housewarming," Anya handed him a small gift-wrapped object.

"Ahn, you don't have to get me a housewarming present."

"I don't?"

"No, you don't. Not if you live here too."

She paused in thought, then brightened. "Happy Thursday."

With a tender laugh, and after a lingering kiss, Xander unwrapped the gift. It was a framed photograph of the two of them down at the beach. She was sitting in his lap, facing him, their arms over each other's shoulders, their heads bowed touching, each only with eyes for the other.

Wordlessly Xander looked at the photograph, then up at Anya.

"I love it."

She smiled and took it from him. "We'll put it here. By the door, so people will see it when they come in."

"I love you," Xander paused, something was not right. "Ahn. Where are my --"

With an airy wave Anya interrupted. "Oh, I put those silly plates in the storage locker. This is much better."

"It is at that."


Xander gestured at the dining room chairs, and took a chair opposite his guest.

"Please don't think I'm being rude, Major, but what is a Ranger, and an experienced one at that, doing in my home on a beautiful Saturday morning instead of crawling though a swamp somewhere?"

"No surprise, Mister Harris, it involves the Initiative."

"The Initiative?" Xander's suspicions and defences were raised. Were they finally going to arrest him for having infiltrated the Initiative? Make him disappear in the name of national security?

"Relax, Mister Harris. I was never a part of the Initiative, though I am familiar with its story, and with yours, or at least some of it. Back before it self-destructed a message was sent up the pike suggesting that one Alexander LeValle Harris may be worth a look. As a potential recruit."

"Me? In the Initiative?"

"You. In the Initiative. When it finally went the way of Air America and Castro assassination plots I was part of the team tasked to review its files as part of the close down. I found the message mentioning you. It didn't go into much detail. Just that you're a good man in a pinch, with lots of experience with HSTs. Sorry, force of habit, with demons. Also, despite being a life long civilian, you are very well trained in a variety of military skills. I'll admit that I was struck by that. Some sort of demon thing, right?"

Xander remembered the gang's run ins with Ethan Rayne. "Close enough. Who would...? Riley."

It was not a question.

Neame nodded. "Sergeant Finn-"

"'Sergeant' Finn?" Xander interrupted in spite of himself.

"Sergeant Finn. He thought that you would be useful to the Initiative, and I am pretty sure that you would be valuable to the Army. We haven't anyone who even comes close to matching your experience with demons. Not even Fynn and his old team."

"'We?' You mean the demon hunting Special Forces who, what? Took over where the Initiative left off. I have to say, Major, not very encouraging."

"Not by a long shot. Our task force locates, fixes, and destroys demons. Study is not in our vocabulary. Well, study for study sake. You know what I mean. The Initiative was a mistake. It was a misuse of the military by.... Well, by outside agencies."

"Never trust the Parks Service, they're ruthless."

Neame chuckled. "Exactly. So, I came to Sunnydale a couple of days ago to see this town for myself, and to check you out."

"Check me out? Major, gotta tell you, still not liking-"

"Relax. I was discrete. Your boss thinks I'm looking for a carpentry crew for a major remodeling job. He thinks quite highly of you by the way. It wasn't necessary for me to interview your friends or family. Two days and you didn't see me until this morning. Like I said, discrete."

In spite of himself Xander found himself asking. "Learn anything?"

"A couple of things," Neame paused. "Mister Harris, I want you to join us. I'm offering you direct entry into the Regular Army in the rank of Second Lieutenant, with two years retroactive seniority when you pass your basic officer training, and Airborne and Ranger courses. In less than nine months time you'll be a platoon leader under my command."

"Me, a platoon leader? I barely passed high school."

"Not an issue. Real world experience trumps formal education in our book. Still, your grades were more than enough for this, and make a career of it and we'll send you off for a degree. On our dime. Happens all the time."

Good God, thought Xander. Sergeant Riley Finn recommended me for the Initiative, and now this combat veteran wants me in his army. Second Lieutenant A.L. Harris, United States Army. Cool, but....

"Sorry to have wasted your time, Major Neame, but no thanks," before Neame could respond Xander continued. "Wait a sec. What was the other thing?"

"Other thing?"

"Yeah. The other thing. You said you'd learned a couple of things about me," he raised a finger. "First, that you wanted me on your team. Second?"

"Second? That you'd refuse. I'm a couple of months too late, right?"

"Couple of months, yeah."


It was their first night together in the apartment. They were in bed, cuddling a bit as they watched the shadows cast on the wall by the street light outside.

"Everything away?" asked Xander.

"Mmmhm," Anya nuzzled Xander's neck, planting light kisses up to his ear.

"I'm sorry I wasn't much help, but they want the job finished early, and OT is no object."

She stopped kissing him. "I don't like you working overtime."

"Hey, time and a half. Can't beat."

Anya pulled away from him, and sat up. "Xander, it's not the money. You know that."

"Ahn, I know that. Well...."


"I hope that," said Xander honestly.

"It isn't, not really. I want more us, not more money."

"Me too. That's what I want too. But what about the future? Car, boat, puppy," he paused ever so slightly. "Child. Your list?"

"Oh that. I don't have it anymore."

"You don't?"

"I burned it. Back in my old place."

"You burned it. Why?"

"Because it doesn't belong here."

"It doesn't?"

Anya dropped back to the pillows and wrapped her arms around Xander. "We belong here. That's enough. Enough for me."

"Yeah. Me too," he said, answering her unasked question.


"Thought so," Neame stood. "Sergeant Finn told me that I would be wasting my time now. Frankly, I'd hoped he was wrong. He left. But I saw nothing here that contradicted him. Still, I had to try."

"You've talked to Riley since he left?"

"Said things had changed since his first report."

"Well, how is he? How's he doing?"

"A bit rough at first, but he's good to go. He's my Operations Sergeant, now."

"Can you get a message to him for me?"

"No," Neame paused then reached into his uniform tunic.

"Here's my card. Keep it short and reasonably infrequent and it'll get passed along. Just you though. Nothing from the ex girlfriend, though. Not good for a guy to start looking back over his shoulder."

Xander took the card. Made out of white plastic, it was blank, except for a single magnetic strip. It was a 'cut out'. Slip it into a pay phone and it dialed automatically. Probably encrypted as well. No surprise, he could tell that Neame was big league.

"Don't worry about Bu.... About the girl friend, that's not an issue any more."

"Good to hear."

Xander saw his guest to the door.

"Well, I'm sorry I couldn't convince you, or maybe I'm not. I wouldn't bail on this either. Nice to have met you, son."

"And you, sir."

The two shook hands.

"Still, nice to be wanted though."

Neame smiled and nodded at the photo of Anya and Xander.

"It must be."